By KYLE HIGHTOWER, The Associated Press
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Ed Cooley doesn’t plan to watch the game tape from Providence’s 59-50 win over rival Rhode Island on Saturday.
But he saw enough to know his young team grew up a lot — particularly on defense.
Freshman A.J. Reeves had 15 points and Providence (6-2) survived a long field-goal drought in the second half to hold off their Ocean State rival.
Isaiah Jackson added 13 points and nine rebounds and Nate Watson finished with 12 points and seven rebounds as the Friars earned their third straight victory.
Providence has won eight of the last nine matchups with Rhode Island. The Friars haven’t lost to the Rams at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center since 2002.
“It was rock fight. Really typical of a Providence-Rhode Island game,” Cooley said. “We made enough winning plays when we had to.”
Cyril Langevine led Rhode Island with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
The Rams trailed by 12 at halftime and opened the second half by missing their first seven shots. They stayed close at the free-throw line, trimming Providence’s lead to 44-37 with 12:35 to play.
Providence held on to its lead despite going more than eight minutes without a field goal after Reeves opened the second half with a 3-pointer.
The Friars used their speed to drive the ball inside and were able to get into the interior of Rhode Island’s defense, which led to easy baskets early on. They outscored URI 20-12 in the paint in the opening 20 minutes and 26-18 for the game.
“Shots may not fall every night, but you have to be ready to play defense,” Jackson said.
It helped offset an off night by Friars’ leading scoring Alpha Diallo. He came in averaging 19 points per game but finished with just five on 0-of-6 shooting from the field.
But Providence did just as good a job limiting URI leading scoring Jeff Dowtin. He was averaging 17.2 points per game but was held to 12 points and 5-of-14 shooting.
“They played extremely physical and they wore us down,’” Rhode Island coach David Cox said.
The Friars bench was also active, outscoring their URI counterparts 29-8 for the game.
URI, which entered the game shooting just 40 percent from the field, continued to struggle, shooting 30 percent. The Rams were just 2 of 18 from the 3-point line.
When Providence wasn’t getting the ball inside, it was adding to its lead from the perimeter. The Friars were 5-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc. It marked the first time this season that a team has shot better than 20 percent from behind the 3-point line against the Rams.
Providence led 39-27 at halftime.
The Friars built a 23-13 lead with 10:29 left before halftime, but then went nearly four minutes without a basket.
URI got as close as 27-23 before being outscored 12-4 the final 4:07 of the half.
Rhode Island: The Rams struggle most when Langevine is frozen out of the offense. Getting better production on the perimeter will limit opponents’ ability to key on him when Rhode Island needs scoring.
Providence: Fresh off being named Big East freshman of the week, Reeves continued to establish himself as one the Friars’ go-to scoring threats. He is becoming as comfortable driving on defenders as he is taking outside shots. Providence will need both as it prepares to open conference play at the end of the month.
Rhode Island has a week off before travelling to Holy Cross next Saturday.
Providence plays at Boston College on Tuesday.
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